Could The Detroit Lions Target Wide Receiver John Brown In Free Agency?
The 2017 Arizona Cardinals were depressing. Just two years earlier, they were a team with superstars you could root for at every level on a magic carpet ride that sputtered out just shy of the Super Bowl. After a rocky 2016 season, the band got back together for one more shot at the title. The names and faces were the same, but their magic had run out.
John Brown was emblematic of this downturn. A third round pick in the historical 2014 receiver class, Brown looked like the next big thing over his first two years in the league. Billed as a Desean Jackson clone, Brown racked up over 1,000 yards in just his second year in the league. He provided a game changing vertical threat to compliment an aging Larry Fitzgerald’s power forward.
Injuries curtailed his ascension towards the heights of the greats. Battling hamstring and quad injuries the past two years, Brown played a step lower than his game-breaking 4.34 speed. A crestfallen Bruce Arians said of Brown before the season, “Some guys are slow healers, some guys are fast healers. I don’t have any choice. Can’t run, you can’t play. Now, if you can’t run long enough, we’ve got to replace you.”
The Cardinals utilized Brown as their WR3. He typically lined up as the X-receiver, moving around depending on the formation. He ran a variety of intermediate routes and took the top off of defenses on clearout patterns. He played without Carson Palmer for much of the season. Brown has a slight frame like a sprinter with solid athletic ability through good quickness and acceleration, average balance and fluidity, and marginal change of direction skills.
|Prospect (Last, First)
|Scout Name (Last, First)
|INJURIES||2017 – Quad(2 Games, WK2-3), Toe(4 Games, WK12-15)
2016 – Hamstring(1 Game, WK7),
2015 –Hamstring(1 Game, WK8),
2014 – No games missed
|KEY STATS||2017-38.2% Catch Rate, 14.2 Yards Per Reception, 21 Catches, 299 Yards
2015-1,003 Yards, 7 Touchdowns, 15.4 Yards Per Reception
|Height||Weight||40 YD||10 YD||Arm||Hand||Vert||3Cone||SS||Broad||Bench|
|5100||179lbs.||4.34s||1.56s||30 1/2”||8 1/2”||36.5”||6.91s||4.12s||911”||n/a|
When he gets clean access off the line, Brown threatens the cornerback’s set quickly with explosive initial acceleration and can put slower players on skates. He can cross them over to win leverage when they’re napping at the line.
He’s a heady player that processes the coverage quickly and runs his routes with good depth and can use a hard stem to flip the corners hips early to create space on stop routes. He can run away on 8/9 routes with his calling-card speed. He shows good stop/start quickness to pull away out of his breaks.
Brown has natural hands that rise late and pluck the ball out of the air both stationary and on the move. He knows how to shield the ball with his frame over the middle. He can lay out and frame the ball against the ground on underthrown balls.
Despite his size, Brown is a willing blocker that can cover defensive backs in space for short periods.
Corners can take Brown out of the play when they get their hands on him. He’s sluggish through pressure. On clearouts, he’ll drop his head during his acceleration. He lacks leg strength and needs to throttle down and gather himself into his breaks, giving corners a beat on his routes. Against Zone, Brown doesn’t ease off the gas when he has space up the seam.
On vertical routes, he lacks the play strength to hold the red line against man. He lacks the commitment to sell double moves. His ball tracking skills are average; his head comes around early to find the ball when he goes deep.
His catch radius is below average and he struggles to bring in errant passes over his head or out in front. Brown will sometimes take plays off when he knows the ball isn’t coming. Despite his effort, his short arms and small frame make it difficult for him to sustain as a blocker.
Two years is more than enough time to spot a trend. Decision makers can no longer expect Brown to stay consistently stay healthy and play like he flashed earlier in his career. At this stage, he’s probably a situational deep threat that can come off the field in 4 WR sets and create space underneath with his speed. His potential is just gravy. Given the state of their receiving corps, that gravy might be enough to take a shot on Brown on a prove-it deal.
Grade: 4.00 (Role Player You Can Win With)